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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Looking back, moving forward

As the year 2006 comes to an end, we take a look back at three hot button issues that we covered over the past year: the Iraq War, U.S. immigration, and the ongoing efforts to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.


Segment 1: "Soldiers Against the Iraq War": U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, refused to deploy to Iraq; Carolyn Ho and Robert Watada, Lieutenant's Watada's mother and father; Ann Wright, retired U.S. colonel.

Segment 2 - "U.S. Immigration": Assie Sampa, Cuban immigrant; Blanca Lopez, Nicaraguan immigrant; Elka Goodin, Jamaican immigrant; Ramon Martinez, Cuban-refugee now U.S. citizen; Marleine Bastien, founder and executive director, FANM Ayisyen Nan Miyami Inc. (Haitian Women of Miami); Katiana Des Arnes, student.

Segment 3 - "Rebuilding New Orleans": Floyd Brooks, Ninth Ward homeowner; Malik Rahim, co-founder, Common Ground Relief; Gabriel Cohen and Rebecca Mintz, volunteers for Common Ground.

Greener News Room

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio. Contributing Freelance Producers: Sarah Olson, Esther Manilla, Justin Beck.

For more information::

Friends and Family of Lieutenant Watada http://www.thankyoult.org/

Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO)405 14th St. #205Oakland, CA 94612510-465-1617; info@objector.org http://www.objector.org/

Iraq Veterans Against the WarP.O. Box 8296Philadelphia, PA 19101215-241-7123; ivaw@ivaw.net http://www.ivaw.net/

Not In Our Name3945 Opal StreetOakland CA 946091-800-95-NOWAR (800-956-6927); info@notinourname.net http://www.notinourname.net/

National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights (NNIRR)310-8th St., Suite 303Oakland, CA 94607510-465-1984; nnirr@nnirr.org http://www.nnirr.org/

Human Rights Watch 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th FloorNew York, NY 10118-3299 http://www.hrw.org/

FANM Ayisyen Nan Miyami Inc./ Haitian Women of Miami8325 NE 2nd Avenue, Suite 100Miami, Florida 33138305-756-8050; info@fanm.org http://www.fanm.org/

Common Ground Relief1415 Franklin Ave.New Orleans, LA 70117504-218-6613; commongroundvolunteers@gmail.com http://www.commongroundrelief.org/

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) http://www.acorn.org/

Baton Rouge ACORN5177 Greenwell Springs RoadBaton Rouge, LA 70806225-925-5558; laacornbr@acorn.org

New Orleans ACORN1024 Elysian Fields AveNew Orleans, LA 70117504-943-0044; laacornno@acorn.org

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1:31 PM

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Space shuttle Discovery lands safely

Space shuttle Discovery has landed safely at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, ending a successful 13-day mission to rewire the International Space Station (ISS).

The shuttle made a fiery re-entry into Earth's atmosphere and a long glide to touchdown at the seaside landing strip shortly after 5:30pm local time, bringing home a seven-member crew that included Germany's Thomas Reiter, who had spent the past six months at the ISS.

Discovery dropped a new crew member, rookie US astronaut Sunita Williams, at the orbiting outpost for a six-month stint in space.

NASA caught a break with the weather in Florida after wrestling with difficult conditions at the Kennedy Space Centre and at the backup landing site, Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Officials even considered landing Discovery at a rarely used landing site in New Mexico.

Shuttle managers skipped a first opportunity to land in Florida before deciding the weather had cleared enough for a safe touchdown on their second chance.

Despite wrestling with a balky solar panel, Discovery's crew accomplished the main goals of the mission, which began on December 9 with a launch from Florida.

The astronauts smoothly installed an $US11 million, two-ton truss segment on the space station's backbone and put in a new electrical system so laboratories built by Europe and Japan can be added to the station in the future.

It was the retraction of an old solar array that tripped up the mission.

Astronauts and ground controllers struggled to fold up the troublesome 33-metre wing on several occasions before NASA managers decided to add an unplanned spacewalk so the astronauts could shake out the kinks in the panel.

The added spacewalk forced the crew to spend an extra day in space, delaying Discovery's homecoming from Thursday to Friday.

NASA plans at least 13 more missions to complete the half-built, $US100 billion space station before the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.

Greener News Room

Related Links
NASA Shuttle Missions - Outline of current and past NASA space shuttle missions.


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10:30 AM

Friday, December 22, 2006

It's getting hot in here

How about an avocado tree for Christmas?

Your gardening loved ones are in luck this holiday season. New data from the National Climactic Data Center indicates that hardiness zones – climate regions determined by lowest annual temperature – have shifted significantly in all fifty states since 1990.

While the USDA has yet to comment on the new data or offer updated zone maps, just this week the National Arbor Foundation has released maps delineating the redefined hardiness zones. The Foundation’s news release affirms that the new data “is consistent with the consensus of climate scientists that global warming is underway.”

The new data reflect the lowest annual temperatures as recorded at 5000 research stations for the past fifteen years. Nationwide, the changes are dramatic. Entire states have changed zones since 1990. Iowa, for instance, was once more than half Zone 4, with an average annual low of -30 to -20 degrees. Now, the entire state is reclassified Zone 5, with a low of just -10 to -20. Much of the Northeast is now Zone 6 (-10 to 0 degrees), while Zone 7 spreads across the South.

Agricultural extension agents affirm that adventurous gardeners now stand a chance at growing palms and other tropical plants. Warm-weather plants previously restricted to the South, such as the lovely winter-blooming camellia, are now creeping across the Mason-Dixon line.

Meanwhile, however, cold-weather plants are struggling to keep their cool. North Carolina cooperative extension agent Karen Neill notes that white pines in her area have struggled recent years; not surprising when the ten hottest days on record have all occurred since 1990, as Arbor Day spokesman Woody Nelson notes.

Changes in plant distribution may have serious affects across the food chain. As plant species change in abundance, the animals that depend on them for food and shelter will also be forced to adapt. Humans, too, may feel unexpected impacts. Scientists expect that continued climate change may seriously impact farming and crop distribution.

To see the maps for yourself, check out the Arbor Day Foundation’s website. The Foundation recommends planting trees as a means of combating this change. Trees remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, from the atmosphere, and provide shade that keeps the ground cool and reduces energy use.

By Sara Kate Kneidel
Greener Magazine

Keywords: hardiness zones, climate change, global warming

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8:10 PM

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

NASA shuttle prepares for return, watch live

Introducing live NASA TV coverage, a new feature on Greener Magazine.

As NASA resumes the shuttle program and is now completing the scheduled phase construction of the International Space Station, we thought it was time to introduce a new feature on Greener Magazine, live NASA TV.With future planned missions to the Moon and Mars announced earlier this year, NASA will once again be making new discoveries in manned exploration of the environment, technology, and science all of which impact life our on earth.

Clearly, as our world grows smaller from increasing population pressure and the threat of ever-present disasters, both manmade and natural, on the rise, it leaves society with fewer and fewer options. One obvious option is the exploration of space.

Like it or not, the human race is bound by nature to explore and so we thought that even if only by this arm chair method, a window on the world of NASA exploration would be worthwhile.

Watch NASA Television live now and look for our player in the side bar, coming soon.

Greener News Room


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12:22 AM

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

You can help

Time Magazine made an interesting choice on Saturday for their Person of the Year, rather than selecting still another politician, world leader or group, they selected you.

They selected your neighbor, your boss and your child. They selected the person next to you on the plane and they chose an orphan in the streets of Mumbai or Chicago or Brasilia. They selected all of us and perhaps that is just their way of saying, "It takes a village", or it takes a country even a whole world to fix the things we have broken.

Hunger, disease, dislocation, war, inequity and poverty, these conditions all have a cause but, in the final analysis, they are all the direct result of something more basic, more human: broken promises, failed responsibility and disillusionment.

It may be that the world would heal itself, left alone. Left to time and nature, the environment would improve, the Earth heal. But, as "Person of the Year", you can change that in ways nature cannot. Find a cause to champion, a problem to solve or just a person to help in this coming year and you will have achieved something wonderful and for that you may fairly be called Person of the Year.

Greener Magazine

Here are a few sites to help you get started::

World Wildfile Fund

Environmental Protection Agency

E.P.A Kids


Earth 911

Environment Australia



World Health Organization

World Watch Institute

Blue Moon Fund

More links

Top of Page

11:30 AM

Celestial season's greetings from Hubble

Swirls of gas and dust reside in this ethereal-looking region of star formation imaged by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. This majestic view, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), reveals a region where infant stars and their much more massive stellar neighbors reside. A shroud of blue haze gently lingers amid the stars.

Known as LH 95, this is just one of the hundreds of star-forming systems, called associations, located in the LMC some 160,000 light-years distant. Earlier ground-based observations of such systems had only allowed astronomers to study the bright blue giant stars present in these regions. With Hubble's resolution, the low-mass stars can now be analyzed, which will allow for a more accurate calculation of their ages and masses.

The largest stars within LH 95 - those with at least three times the mass of the Sun - generate strong stellar winds and high levels of ultraviolet radiation that heat the surrounding interstellar gas. The result is a bluish nebula of glowing hydrogen that continues to expand out into the molecular cloud that originally collapsed to form these massive stars.

Read full Hubble report

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration
Acknowledgment: D. Gouliermis (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg)

Images and additional information about LH 95 are available on the Web at:

Greener News Room


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9:06 AM

Friday, December 15, 2006

Olympic athletes return from diplomatic mission on behalf of Darfur

WASHINGTON, D.C.Dec 15, 06:: American speed skater and Olympic gold medal winner, Joey Cheek, along with Kenyan world champion distance runner Tegla Loroupe arrived in the United States today following a human rights mission with actors George Clooney and Don Cheadle and the Save Darfur Coalition.

The Coalition’s Executive Director David Rubenstein and Ambassador (ret.) Lawrence Rossin traveled with the delegation of celebrities and athletes as they met with senior government officials in China and Egypt to discuss the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Clooney and the delegation of Darfur activists will visit the United Nations in New York later today to brief UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Clooney, met in September 2006 with U.N. Security Council and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel to urge them to act on Darfur. The American actor and activist visited Darfur in April.

On Friday, December 15, 2006, actors George Clooney and Don Cheadle, Academy Award nominee for the movie "Hotel Rwanda, and Olympic athletes Joey Cheek and Tegla Loroupe will meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Following their meeting, they will hold a press conference at the United Nations about their human rights mission to China and Egypt to discuss the genocide in Darfur. The Clooney-led delegation met with senior government officials of both countries and urged them to use their influence in Sudan to end the killing.

Joey Cheek is the world's First Heisman Humanitarian Award winner. Cheek the Olympic gold medal for America in speed skating.Tegla Loroupe, is the World Champion Kenyan distance runner and 2006 United Nations Ambassador of Sport. Amb. (ret.) Lawrence Rossin, is Senior International Coordinator for the Save Darfur Coalition and a 29 year U.S. Foreign Service official. David Rubenstein, Executive Director of the Save Darfur Coalition, recent witness of the effects of the Darfur genocide on Darfuri refugees in Chad.

Greener News Room


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12:26 PM

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Oaxaca libre, la lucha sigue! (Free Oaxaca, the fight continues!)

What started out as an annual teachers strike in the historic Mexican town of Oaxaca has become the largest people's rebellion in the country in over a decade.

What started out as an annual teachers strike in the historic Mexican town of Oaxaca has become the largest people's rebellion in the country in over a decade. To date, human rights organizations report that there've been hundreds of illegal detentions, disappearances and injuries, and at least eighteen documented deaths.

Making Contact takes you to the occupied streets of Oaxaca where thousands are fighting to oust the governor, and are risking all for the future of their city.


Eva Lopez Chavez, Coalition of Oaxacan Indigenous Teachers and Promoters; Giselda, teacher; Gustavo Esteva, founder and director, Universidad de la Tierra; Sara Mendez, Oaxaca Human Rights Network; Enrique Rueda Pacheco, National Teachers Union leader of Section 22; Gilberto Hernandez Santiago, coordinator, APPO Legal Committee; Genaro Altamirano, director, "Noticias"; Flavio Sosa, member, APPO council; Carmen, one of five APPO members that went on a twenty-two day hunger strike; Carlos Abascal, Secretary of the Interior; Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, Governor of Oaxaca; Oaxacan woman in the Zocalo; Jessica Sanchez Maya, president, Mexican Human Rights League; Mauricio Marmela Riviera, torture victim.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Contributing Freelance Producers: Tim Russo, Vladimir Flores, and Chris Thomas (translations)
Freelance Associate Producer: Emily Polk
Mixing Engineer: Phillip Babich
Intern: Alexis McCrimmon
Voiceover Talent: Frank Sr., Patricia, Frank, Angie, and Nicole Rubio, Sydney Levy, Amin, Steve Masar, Alexis McCrimmon, Emily Polk, Jake Wenger, Zachary Katznelson, Robynn Takayama, Dorian Taylor, Lisa Rudman, Phillip Babich and Simon Avakian.

Greener News Room

For more information:

Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (LIMEDDH)
Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos
Azcapotzalco No. 275
Col. Clavería C.P. 02090 México
+52.55.539 90592; Fax: +52.55.539 91336

Earth University - Universidad de la Tierra

Oaxacan Human Rights Network
Red Oaxqueña de Derechos Humanos
No. 524 Int. 4E Col. Centro C.P. 68000 Oaxaca, MÉXICO
Contact: Manuel Sabino Crespo
951- 514-1634; rodhmx@prodigy.net.mx; rodhmx@yahoo.com.mx

Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO)
Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca

Indymedia Oaxaca

Mal De Ojo TV

CASA Collective
Colectivo CASA (Colectivos de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Acción)

Other helpful links:

Global Exchange
2017 Mission Street, #303
San Francisco, CA 94110
About Oaxaca: www.globalexchange.org/countries/americas/mexico/

Mexico Solidarity Network, Tom Hansen
3460 W. Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

Witness for Peace National Office
3628 12th Street NE, 1st Floor
Washington, DC 20017
202-547-6112; Fax: 202-547-6103

Centro de Investigaciones Economicas y Politicas de Accion Comunitaria (CIEPAC)
Gustavo Castro Soto and Onesimo Hidalgo
Eje Vial Uno Numero 11
Col. Jardines de Vista Hermosa
29297 San Cristobal, Chiapas Mexico
01-967-85832 (from inside Mexico); 52-967-85832 (from outside Mexico)

Union of Indigenous Committees in the Northern Zone of the Isthmus of Oaxaca (UCIZONI)
Carlos Beas
APTO Postal 81
Matias Romero Oaxaca 70300

Servicios para una educación alternativa EDUCA
Escuadrón 201 #203
Colonia Antigua Aeropuerto, C. P. 68050, Oaxaca, Mexico
951-513-6023 or& 951-502-5043
info@educaoaxaca.org or educa@spersaoaxaca.com.mx

Ojo de Agua Comunicación, S.C.
2a Cerrada de M. Alcala 211-A
Colonia Díaz Ordáz, C. P. 68040, Oaxaca, Oax.
Phone/Fax: 951-515-3264; comin@laneta.apc.org

Radio Planton

Comite de Defensa de los Derechos del Pueblo

Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca (CIPO)

Noticias de Oaxaca (oppositional newspaper)

Information on upcoming events and actions in solidarity with Oaxaca:

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9:42 AM

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Verdict awaited in Botswana's Bushmen land rights trial

BOTSWANA Dec 12, 2006:: Judges in Botswana’s High Court will rule Wednesday, Dec 13 on a landmark case brought by the Kalahari San Bushmen against the Botswana government.

Bushman Jumanda Gakelebone said today, ‘We Bushmen have waited so long to hear this ruling. Many of my friends have died since the case began, and will never see the day we return to our land. I am asking the judges, please, please let us go home, so that all this dying will stop.’

At least 28 of the original 239 Bushman applicants have died in government resettlement camps since the case was filed in 2002.

The court will be open to journalists and members of the public. The Bushmen are fighting for their right to live on their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and to hunt and gather freely there. They filed the case after the Botswana government evicted them from their land.

The case has been the longest and most expensive in Botswana’s legal history, despite being brought by the country’s poorest inhabitants. 135 more Bushmen have asked to be added to the original list of applicants this year.

The Bushmen recently launched a website with quotes from more than 400 Bushman adults about their wish to return to their land. Together with their children they number around 1,000 people: I Want 2 Go Home

Survival International has been a long time, key support group for the San Bushmen. They have listed summary of the history behind the court case on their site.

Spokespersons for De Beers say no mining is taking place in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and deny that the relocation is maent to clear the area for future mining operations.

"There is no connection between diamonds and the relocation of the San," De Beers says on its Web site. "What is really taking place ... is a debate on two competing models of sustainable development for the San communities."

Government spokesperson Clifford Maribe denied the allegations and said most Bushmen were happier outside the reserve. He said campaigners had romanticised the hunter gatherer lifestyle and hijacked the wishes of the majority.

"Even before the resettlements they were not living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They were growing crops and hunting with dogs, horses, and sometimes vehicles and guns bought outside the reserve," he told Reuters.

He said the reserve was a "poverty trap" for the Bushmen, who would thrive by resettling in areas where they could rear cattle and launch small-scale manufacturing businesses.

Greener News Room


Background:: GABERONE BOTSWANA - Some 200 members of the main opposition Botswana National Front march on Saturday in protest

De Beers, the world's top diamond producer, has moved hundreds of San Bushmen from their ancestral hunting grounds in the vast Central Kalahari Game Reserve, saying they must be relocated to benefit from education, water and health services.

Saturday's march came two weeks before Botswana's high court rules on a legal challenge by the Bushmen against the relocations.

None of the Bushmen, who have lived in southern Africa as hunter-gatherers for thousands of years, were in evidence among marchers in the protest, which the BNF said was held to show solidarity with them.

"We are just trying to get the message through to the government that its approach to the whole issue is ill-conceived. Basarwa (Bushmen), just like any other people in Botswana, have the right to live where they want," BNF spokesman Moeti Mhwasa told Reuters.

President Festus Mogae's government has denied charges by rights groups that it is relocating the Bushmen to free up land for potential diamond mining and that it has tortured some of those evicted.


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3:01 PM

Monday, December 11, 2006

One man's trash, another man's treasure

You’d never guess that Ann Douden and Rich Messer’s cozy Colorado home is built out of trash.

Their home’s smooth, thick walls may appear a tad unorthodox, but they offer no glimpse of the treasures they contain. If by treasure, you mean trash, that is; this house, like thousands of other trashbale homes around the country, is built by materials that would otherwise be landfill waste.

Ann Douden and Rich Messer astonished their neighbors by constructing their beautiful home from bales of post-consumer paperboard and PVC trash. These materials - glossy, coated cardboard (such as a laundry soap box), and waste plastic (broken toys, laundry baskets, shampoo bottles) – are hard to recycle and usually end up at the dump. But for Rich and Ann, they provide inexpensive yet sturdy walls. With an insulation value of R-30, this recycled home many times exceeds the energy efficiency standards of conventional housing.

Trash bale homes are part of a growing tide of green development. Other adventurous home builders have turned from brick and vinyl siding to adobe, concrete, and even recycled tires. Tire-built homes are often dubbed “Earthships,” thanks to their earthen walls and low environmental impact. Tires packed with soil form superbricks: tightly packed mud encased in steel belted rubber. According to Earthship Biotecture, a firm based out of Taos, NM, the walls built from these bricks are “virtually indestructible.”

Earthships are a unique design of passive solar, rammed earth homes. Constructed from natural and recycled materials, they are often completely independent from the grid. Earthship electricity is harvested through PV panels, with the assistance of generators or the power grid, if necessary. As with other passive solar homes, very little energy is required for heating and cooling the home. As a result, it’s easy to capture enough energy for other household needs.

The home’s water needs are met by rainwater, which is collected on the roof and funneled through a system of cisterns, pumps, and filters. Water is recycled many times through the home before being treated on-site in a “jungle,” a non-polluting sewage treatment process. Hot water is heated by the sun and an on-demand natural gas heater, which is activated only in the event of insufficient sunlight.

Building an Earthship or trash bale house is certainly a large undertaking. But satisfied do-it-yourselfers like Ann and Rich swear it’s worth it. To find out more about these building styles, check out http://www.earthshipbiotecture.com/ for practical information about Earthship design and construction. You can even rent an Earthship for a night to try it out for yourself!

by Sara Kate Kneidel
Greener Magazine

keyword: earthship, trash bale house, green building, conservation development

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5:57 PM

Ice retreat could produce ice-free arctic summers by 2040

A new NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) study indicates that Arctic sea ice may soon begin retreating 4 times faster than at any time since observations began. The Arctic could become devoid of late summer sea ice by 2040, according to new research published in the December 12 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

The model indicates the extent of this late-summer ice could begin to retreat abruptly within a few decades.

    This animation shows the year-to-year variability of Arctic sea ice. For much of the 20th century, the model accurately captures the expansion and contraction of the area covered by sea ice from one late summer to the next, based on natural climate cycles. By the end of the 20th century, however, the ice began to retreat significantly because of global warming.

    Within a few decades or sooner, the model simulations show that the ice is likely to shrink abruptly, losing about two-thirds of its area over the course of about a decade. By 2040, the Arctic may be devoid of sea ice during the late summer unless greenhouse gas emissions are significantly curtailed. (Animation ©UCAR.)
The study, by a team of scientists from NCAR, the University of Washington, and McGill University, analyzed the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the Arctic.

"We have already witnessed major losses in sea ice, but our research suggests that the decrease over the next few decades could be far more dramatic" says NCAR scientist Marika Holland, the study's lead author. "These changes are surprisingly rapid."

Arctic sea ice has been in retreat in recent years, especially in late summer, when the extent and thickness of the ice are at a minimum. To analyze how global warming will affect the ice in coming decades, the team studied a series of seven simulations run on the NCAR-based Community Climate System Model. The scientists first tested the model by simulating fluctuations in ice cover since 1870, including a significant shrinkage of late-summer ice from 1979 to 2005.

The team then simulated future ice loss if greenhouse gases continue to build at the current rate, the prediction: Arctic's ice cover will go through alternating periods of stability followed by abrupt retreat. For example, in one model simulation, September ice shrinks from 2.3 million square miles to just 770,000 square miles in one 10-year period. By 2040, the model suggests a small amount of perennial sea ice may remain along the north coasts of Greenland and Canada, while most of the Arctic basin is ice-free by September. In addition, winter ice thins from about 12 feet thick to less than 3 feet.

Why expect abrupt change

The research team points to several reasons for the abrupt loss of ice in a gradually warming world. Open water absorbs more sunlight than does ice, meaning that the growing regions of ice-free water will accelerate the warming trend. In addition, global climate change is expected to influence ocean circulations and drive warmer ocean currents into the Arctic.

"As the ice retreats, the ocean transports more heat to the Arctic and the open water absorbs more sunlight, further accelerating the rate of warming and leading to the loss of more ice," Holland explains. "This is a positive feedback loop with dramatic implications for the entire Arctic region."

Avoiding abrupt change

The scientists also conclude that different rates of greenhouse gas emissions can affect the probability of abrupt ice loss. By examining 15 additional leading climate models, they found that if emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were to slow, the likelihood of rapid ice loss would decrease. Instead, summer sea ice would probably undergo a much slower retreat.

"Our research indicates that society can still minimize the impacts on Arctic ice," Holland says.

Marika Holland
NCAR scientist

Cecilia M. Bitz

Bruno Tremblay

Research funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's principal sponsor, and NASA.

Publication:: Geophysical Research Letters

Greener News Room

Top of Page

2:02 PM

‘Darfur Diaries’ shows plight of Sudanese victims of government-backed violence

New York City-In the spring of 2004, three young activists embarked on a mission to a part of the world they'd scarcely heard of before: Darfur, a region in western Sudan. They wanted to make a film from the perspective of Darfurians who’d fled attacks by Sudanese government-supported militias.

The resulting film, Darfur Diaries, and a book of the same title, are meant to draw more international attention to the crisis in Sudan, which the United Nations says has displaced nearly two million people, and left 200,000 dead.

"Those who died, died over there,” an old woman matter-of-factly tells the camera in Darfur Diaries. “Some of our people were killed there. Some ran away. We took our kids by the hand to come here. We ran away. We carried nothing with us. We left everything there,” she says, “our cows, our animals. We ran by ourselves.”

It’s one of many affecting scenes in the hour-long documentary by three young Americans about the ongoing violence in Sudan. The project began in 2003, when Aisha Bain was an intern at a now-defunct non-profit, the Center for the Prevention of Genocide. Firsthand reports of terrible violence against the people of Darfur, in western Sudan, had begun to stream in. Bain tried to get news agencies to cover the story, but without success.

"Nobody was listening, nobody was paying attention,” Bain recalled in a recent interview. “And very few non-governmental organizations were talking about it, so nothing was really happening. And so my friend Adam and I decided, ‘Well, we'll go, we'll take a camera, and we'll shoot whatever we can, and we'll bring the information out.’ "

Joined by another friend, Jen Marlowe, Aisha Bain and Adam Shapiro traveled to Chad in the fall of 2004. Sudanese rebels helped them sneak back and forth across the border to meet people in refugee camps and film burned-out villages. Their film shows the conflict through the eyes of ordinary Darfurians, including children. The opening scenes, in fact, are animations based on children’s drawings of peaceful villages torn apart by air bombing raids and sword-wielding militias on horseback. Terrified villagers flee on foot, carrying their babies in their arms, as their huts burn behind them.

The animation yields to videotaped interviews of people in refugee camps, and some of the child artists. "Tell me what happened in this picture," an interviewer asks Ibrahim, a boy of ten, of a page in his book of colored pencil drawings. "The plane is bombing the village," he replies. He says his father was killed. His mother is here with him, living in the camp.

It is a common story. Another boy, whose brother was killed in front of him, cannot sleep at night. Many of the children and adults appear to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the filmmakers say. Yet even living in camps with few possessions, they’ve established schools for their children. The classes are mostly lectures held in the open; there are almost no books or school supplies.

Sudanese include hundreds of ethnic groups, self-identified as both African and Arab, who've intermarried for centuries. Darfurians are Muslim, and almost all speak Arabic. But the film says that with increasing desertification in Darfur, local conflicts over land and resources grew, beginning at least 20 years ago. Government-supported Arab militias, called Janjaweed, began attacking black Darfurian villagers with increasing frequency. And when a Darfurian rebel movement sprang up in 2003, the government of Omar Bashir began its own bombing raids against civilians.

Bashir’s attempt to hold onto power is key, according to the filmmakers, who say that the conflict in Darfur should not be seen in simple racial or ethnic terms. For example, Jen Marlowe says, the largest Arab tribe in Darfur has refused to participate in the government-backed militias. To some Darfurians, too, the militias are merely instruments of Omar Bashir’s government. As one man says in the film, “You use a gun to kill something. The government uses Arabs like a gun, to kill --- us.”

The film is sympathetic to the Darfurian rebels, showing them taking up arms only in self-defense. Many are still children. Yet Darfur Diaries also has a message of reconciliation. The same man who spoke about guns observes that many Arabs are suffering now, too. “Many are killed in battles. Some of them are suffering like we are suffering. Because of this, if I meet Arab, I [would] say to him: [this] is the wrong policy for the government to use in Darfur. I want the equality of all the people, not Arab, not African, all the same: the same citizens of the Sudan."

But the number of displaced Darfurians keeps growing, while the violence, including systematic rape, continues unabated. A young refugee woman says that even small girls and old women are victimized. And despite a peace agreement signed last spring, filmmakers Jen Marlowe, Aisha Bain and Adam Shapiro note that the latest news from Sudan is very bleak. They say that makes it even more urgent for people in other countries to do whatever they can to help.

"It does trickle back to Darfurians when there is a rally here and thousands and thousands of people show up,” Marlowe says. “That news trickles back to the refugee camps, and to people in the internally-displaced people camp, and at least people know that they are not entirely alone and not entirely abandoned, that even if governments haven't been doing all they should, there are people in the world that are standing with them."

Darfur Diaries is now also a book, interweaving Darfurians’ stories with the experiences of the three filmmakers in Sudan and Chad, and with political and historical accounts of the conflict. As with the film, some of the proceeds from the book, published by Nation Books, will go to assist schools for Darfur's children.

by Carolyn Weaver, VOA

Greener News Room


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12:26 PM

Diamonds, mining for dust

Following the world wide opening of the movie Blood Diamonds in theaters this week, attention has once again focused on the illicit trade in African “conflict” diamonds. Diamond merchants everywhere are scrambling to convince consumers that their stones conflict free locations. however the truth remains that, no supplier - not even vaunted De Beers - can guarantee a diamond's origin at the retail level.

Diamonds come onto the market by a variety of routes including: brokers, archived stores and retrieved (recycled sources). In fact, where your diamond actually came from is probably as much a mystery to the retailer as to you.

Surface mining, in all its forms, for whatever treasure lies beneath, leaves giant scar on the planet (see our report Green grow the diamonds, Jan 06) as well as scars upon a society that tolerates it. For years, Diamond mining has disrupted the landscape of continents from Africa to the Arctic. Mining interests continue to exploit human and environmental resources in order to glean the merest “dust” of diamonds.

Roughly, 49% of all diamonds originate from central and southern Africa; and significant sources of the mineral have been discovered in Canada, India, Russia, Brazil, and Australia. Generally, diamonds are mined from volcanic vents called pipes buried deep in the Earth where high pressure and temperature enable formation of the crystal.

Annually, 26,000 kg of “graded” diamonds are mined, with a value estimated in USD of $9 billion (1 kilogram equals just over 35 ounces or 2.2 lbs), that equals roughly 29 tons of raw diamond mined each year. The total weight of the earth is 5972 sextillion tons, by comparison, just dust. But the damage it does to the planet and people who work the mine fields is enormous.

Mining and the distribution of natural diamonds frequently raise concerns, about the sale of conflict diamonds – blood diamonds - by African paramilitary groups. Allegations that De Beers misuses its dominance in the industry to control supply and manipulate price abound. Yet, even as 'De Beers’ market share has dropped below 60%, there are other companies rising to fill the void. (Video interview with Manager, DeBeers' Snap Lake Project.)

Diamond sales yearly reap enormous profits for globalized mining corporations returning but a small fraction of the revenues to local economies, Mining, as it has always in the past, creates boomtowns, only to be followed by abandoned claims, scarred earth and devastated economies. Considering these sobering consequences, perhaps diamonds are forever.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine


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9:30 AM

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dust...Out of Africa

As their DC-8 flew into a tropical storm off the coast of West Africa, Aaron Pratt and Tamara Battle realized their lifelong dream--to study storms and weather systems at their source. During that flight, lightning struck their plane. The resulting storm turned into a tropical depression, ultimately known as Hurricane Helene, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes of 2006.

Pratt and Battle were thrilled. They, along with Stephen Chan, Amber Reynolds, Daniel Robertson and Deanne Grant, spent a month conducting weather research in Senegal and Cape Verde, West Africa. The students worked with scientists from universities and government agencies to study how land storms become ocean storms and then make their way west to U.S. and Caribbean waters.

"African dust is very critical for hurricane formation. One of our flights allowed us to see the dust kicked up in the Sahara Desert," said Pratt, a doctorate candidate in atmospheric science from Howard University. "I had never done research overseas before and didn't know what to expect. Working with scientists in both Senegal and Cape Verde helped put our research in the proper perspective."

Battle is also a doctoral candidate in atmospheric science at Howard University. "When we flew over the Sahara Desert, it was serene and beautifully simple," she said. "Africa's easterly waves and Saharan dust storms not only impact the weather in the United States and the Caribbean, but they also have implications for the inhabitants of many African countries. By sharing what we've learned, we increase the chances of helping those countries improve forecasting and predictability. That will have a positive impact on the agriculture and economy of the region."

The flights originated in Cape Verde, looking at easterly waves which, develop tropical cyclones, Saharan dust outbreaks, convection and cloud microphysics. In Senegal, the students used advanced equipment to track precipitation, predict rainfall and measure air pressure.

The students plan to present their project overview and initial findings at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in January 2007.

The students' research was funded by NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering and the Division of Atmospheric Sciences.

Greener News Room


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9:17 PM

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rwanda to Darfur, an unbroken discord

Twelve years ago, Rwanda, sub-Saharan Africa, exploded in an orgy of racial violence, intertribal hatred and killing that some western observers have called the worst genocide since WWII.

On April 6, 1994, the killing began, 2 weeks later - April 21 - the International Red Cross estimated tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were dead. U.N. officials refused to call it genocide.

By the end of 100 days, 900,000 Rwandans had been killed – most, by the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) joined by Hutu militia (the interahamwe) armed with machetes.

The events in Rwanda in 1994 were dramatized in the now iconic movie Hotel Rwanda, (2004), the story of a small group of refugees (1260 altogether) gathered in the luxury Dutch Hotel, The Mille Collines (view satellite image). They were under the protection of a Rwandan hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina.

Today Rusesabagina - an ethnic Hutu - and his family live in Belgium. He is an outspoken witness to the massacre in Rwanda. You can listen to his account of that siege. Vilified by some and praised by others, this quiet man, An Ordinary Man, according to his autobiography (excerpt) by the same name, has had his life threatened and, quixotically, he is routinely mentioned as a presidential prospect in Rwandan political circles.

For all his notoriety and his perspicacity, Rusesabagina may be just the face a blind, predominantly white, western culture imposes on tragedies like the one in Rwanda; or he may be a forbearing force for real change and ultimately, tolerance – time will tell.

Today there is another “genocide” occurring in Africa, in Darfur. The names may be different and to some extent, so too are the circumstances. However, the underlying causes are the same: grinding poverty, lack of education, unrelenting draught and western indifference spawned by centuries of mistrust and colonial arrogance.

Darfur has the potential to be an even greater disaster than Rwanda, as if that makes it somehow worse. Yet the circumstances, which surround the killing in Darfur, are no different than they were in 1994. The intolerance that unleashes such a rampaging murderous storm lies, at its heart, in the matrix that is North Africa and south sub-Saharan Africa.

Egyptian/Saharan Africa has been, for a very great many centuries, the broker between Roman/European, western civilization and the resources and labor of Central-Southern Africa. Millennia of African on African violence and discontinuity have created a deep, abiding distrust between north and south. It is a chasm that threatens to divide the continent as surely, as the Great Rift Valley is certain to divide it east from west. The developed nations of Europe, Asia and the Americas may yet learn to hear Africa, but not until our hearts understand Africa, will her dream of a united continent begin.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine


resources:: SaveDarfu.org Endorses a Call for UN Peacekeepers in Chad

Coalition Also Calls for Concrete Action in Darfur Following African Union Summit

  • Nov. 30 WASHINGTON, DC – The Save Darfur Coalition today echoed Chadian President Idriss Deby’s call for a United Nations peacekeeping force in eastern Chad, where the deadly conflict in Darfur, Sudan has swept across the border that separates the two African nations.

    “Tens of thousands came to Chad to seek refuge from the atrocities occurring in the Darfur region,” said the Coalition’s Executive Director David Rubenstein, “but the security they sought for themselves and families has been deteriorating for months. The UN should immediately do in Chad what it has not yet been able to do in Darfur; it must send in peacekeepers to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

    Actress/UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow and David Rubenstein recently returned from a fact-finding trip to the refugee camps in eastern Chad.

    The Save Darfur Coalition also responded today to the just-concluded African Union Peace and Security Council Summit in Abuja, Nigeria. The goal of the meeting was to reach agreement on the proposed joint African Union-UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

    “The Save Darfur Coalition welcomes today’s extension of the mandate of the African Union (AMIS) force in Darfur,” said Ambassador Larry Rossin, the Coalition’s Senior International Coordinator. “But while it appears some progress on a truly effective international force may have been made in Abuja, there are troubling signs that Africa’s leaders watered down key elements needed to make such a force effective in protecting Darfur’s suffering people. This hesitant diplomacy does not measure up to the scale of death and displacement in Darfur and the spread of conflict across Sudan’s borders. The people of Darfur need a strong force with a robust mandate to protect them, and they need it now.”

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4:50 PM

New yeast may drive revolution in transportation

Scientists have engineered yeast that can improve the speed and efficiency of ethanol production. Sometimes labeled E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline), ethanol is key to America's biofuel strategy to achieve energy independence.

In a paper to be published tomorrow in the Dec. 8 issue of Science, researchers from The Whitehead Institute and MIT report, that by manipulating the yeast genome, they have engineered a new strain of yeast which, can tolerate elevated levels of both ethanol and glucose, while producing ethanol faster than un-engineered yeast. Yeast is used to ferment plant sugars, producing ethanol.

Fuel blends like E85, are becoming common in states where corn is plentiful; however, their use is primarily confined to the Midwest. The process itself is still considered largely inefficient and therefore not widely used in other regions of the U.S.

The researchers, led by Hal Alper, a postdoctoral associate in the laboratories of MIT, chemical engineering professor Gregory Stephanopoulos and Gerald Fink of the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research, targeted two proteins that typically control large groups of genes. The proteins regulate when these genes are turned on or shut off.

When the researchers altered the protein, it caused the “over-expression” of at least a dozen genes, all of which are necessary to improved ethanol tolerance. As a result, that strain of yeast was able to survive high ethanol concentrations.

In addition, this altered strain of yeast produced 50 percent more ethanol during a 21-hour period compared to normal yeast.

Last year, the United States produced four billion gallons of ethanol from 1.43 billion bushels of corn grain (including kernels, stalks, leaves, cobs, husks) according to the Department of Energy. By comparison, over the same time period, the United States consumed about 140 billion gallons of gasoline.

The DuPont-MIT Alliance, the Singapore-MIT Alliance, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy funded the research.

David Cameron and Anne Trafton (MIT News Office) contributed to this article

Greener News Room


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2:05 PM

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Liberty and justice for... whom?

Since the passing of the Patriot Act, many things have changed in the U.S., and not necessarily for the better. On this edition of making contact, we take a look at Bush Administration policies that many contend undermine basic human rights and civil liberties. Has the War on Terror become a War on Freedom? How much should we give up for this war?

"We have a secret police, and no one is excited about it. We ought to all be terrified that there is a secret police in the United States and this is not on anyone's radar."


Michael Ratner, president, Center for Constitutional Rights; Joanne Mariner, director of counterterrorism, Human Rights Watch; Joshua Colangelo-Byran, attorney for Guantanamo Detainees from Bahrain; George Christian, executive director, The Library Connection, Inc.; Janet Nocek, executive committee, The Library Connection, Inc.; Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director, American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom; Kevin O'Connor, U.S. attorney for Connecticut; Sharon Adams, National Lawyer's Guild; Mark Schlosberg, ACLU­NC; Ruth Robertson (Granny Ruth), Raging Grannies; Chris Bertelli, Office of Homeland Security; Nathan Beranken, Attorney General's Office.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Contributing Producers: Martha Baskin, Melinda Tuhus, Joshua Emerson Smith.
Freelance Associate Producer: Emily Polk
Mixing Engineer: Phillip Babich
Intern: Alexis McCrimmon

Greener Magazine News Room


For more information:

Center for Constitutional Rights
666 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10012

Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor
New York, NY 10118-3299

The Library Connection, Inc.
599 Matianuck Avenue
Windsor, CT 06095

American Library Association
50 E. Huron St.
Chicago, IL 60611

American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad St., 18th floor
New York, NY 10004

National Lawyer's Guild
1867 Ygnacio Valley Road, #230
Walnut Creek, CA 94598

Northern CA American Civil Liberties Union
39 Drumm Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

Raging Grannies

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10:12 PM

Owens River to flow again after 93 years

Los Angeles - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today opened a gate from its past and water once again flowed freely into the Owens River in California’s Sierra Nevada.

The Owens River and Lake Owens have been dry for nearly a century; that was when William Mulholland began construction of the first of 2 aqueducts designed to draw water from the high desert north of L.A. to quench the thirst of a growing desert town called Los Angeles.

A rushing stream then, the Owens River provided water to a thriving agricultural community of ranchers and farmers. The annual spring runoff of the Sierra's frozen winter snows produced a green belt, which, sprawled across a series of east central valleys connecting the deserts of western Nevada to the mountains in the west.

Today all that is left of the once verdant, self-sustaining system is a series of dry, salten lakes and desert valleys bordered on the west by California’s Death Valley and to the south by the Mojave (map).

The episode in history known as the “water wars” was one of the most acrimonious, if one sided, natural resources conflicts in American history with both sides claiming illegal, acts of vandalism, fraud, sabotage and armed confrontation. In the end, Mulholland and the citizens of L.A. prevailed, for a hundred years the river and the commerce of Owens Valley withered and died.

Today’s action is the result of more than thirty years of legal battles between the residents of the valley, environmentalists and the L.A. Department of Power and Water who in 1997 lost their claims and agreed to release water back into the Owens River. Since then, the power authorities has stalled until finally, last week, agreeing to replenish the river or face fines and be further restricted from using a second aqueduct. Currently the main diversion supplies just a fraction of L.A.’s water needs.

While the reintroduction of water into the dry riverbed will not ultimately restore Owens Valley to its previous Green Valley splendor it may well serve as a vivid reminder that, as a society, we can no longer afford to be haphazard or reckless in our pursuit of endless development.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener News Room


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4:07 PM

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

First Native American conference on global warming

The Lower Colorado River, home to the Cocopah (Kwapa) for many centuries, is today the site of the first Tribal Lands Climate Conference. The inaugural gathering brings together leaders from more than 50 tribes in an effort to address global warming and the environment.

“Native Americans can provide key inspiration regarding global warming and its impact on our world, unite broad stakeholder support, and demonstrate actions that alleviate global warming impacts,” said Garrit Voggesser, manager of the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Lands Conservation Program.

The National Wildlife Federation, in co-sponsoring the conference, is reaching out to those best able to tell the stories and offer first-hand accounts of the impact global warming is having on fish, wildlife and natural resources. Native Americans are critical eyewitnesses to the effects on the environment of technology and industrialization over the past century. Having close ties to the land over a span of many generations, they are uniquely able to compare what is happening today with experiences and observations of the natural cycles of our land and resources in the past.

It is hoped that the Tribal Lands Climate Conference will engage and empower tribal advocates for the environment, connecting them with key decision-makers in science, industry, government and non-government organizations.

Having thousands of years of traditional knowledge and connections to the environment, Native Americans can play a significant role in shaping how America will respond to combat global warming.

Greener News Room


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1:51 PM

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rice harvests threatened by pollution, global warming

A new report appearing in today’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNS) suggests that air pollution may be responsible for the decline of rice crops in some of the world’s most impoverished regions.

Rice harvests increased dramatically in India and parts of Asia during the “Green Revolution” of the 1960s and 70s. However, harvest growth has slowed since the mid-1980s, raising concerns that food shortages might once again return to plague these densely populated regions.

Maximilian Auffhammer at UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources along with V. “Ram” Ramanathan and Jeffery Vincent, researchers at UC San Diego compared historical data on rice harvests in India to the presence of atmospheric brown clouds (ABCs), which form soot and other fine particles in the air (collectively termed aerosols), and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Ramanathan, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography had previously led a team of international scientists in a study of the effect of increased “brown cloud” pollution on the Indian subcontinent. The conclusion from that study was that, while aerosols made the climate drier and cooler, conditions, which threaten rice production, greenhouse gases were warming the climate, potentially good for rice growing.

“Greenhouse gases and aerosols in brown clouds are known to be competing factors in global warming,” said Ramanathan. “The major finding of this interdisciplinary study is that their effects on rice production are additive, which is clearly an unwelcome surprise.”

Auffhammer, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics, added, “While this study focuses on India's rain-fed states, ABCs exist throughout Asia’s main rice-producing countries, many of which, have experienced decreasing growth rates in harvests, too. Furthering our understanding of how air pollution affects agricultural output is very important to ensure food security in the world’s most populous region.”

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine


The research paper is the result of a three-year collaboration between Auffhammer, Ramanathan and Vincent. Their work was supported in part by the Giannini Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and IGCC.

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4:16 PM

Invention could fuel green cars

Hydrogen-powered cars that do not pollute the environment are a step closer thanks to a new discovery, which promises to solve the main problem holding back the technology. NASA audio "Rocks in your gastank"

Although hydrogen is thought to be an ideal fuel for vehicles, producing only water on combustion, its widespread use has been limited by the lack of a safe, efficient system for onboard storage.

Scientists have experimented with ways of storing hydrogen by locking the gas into metal lattices, but metal hydrides only work at temperatures above 300°C and metal organic framework materials only work at liquid nitrogen temperatures (-198°C).

Now scientists at the University of Bath have invented a material which stores and releases hydrogen at room temperature, at the flick of a switch, and promises to help make hydrogen power a viable clean technology for the future.

Although its fuel to weight ratio is insufficient to make an entire hydrogen tank from it, the material could be used in combination with metal hydride sources to store and release energy instantaneously while the main tank reaches sufficient temperature, 300°C, to work.

They hope to have the working prototype ready within two to three years.

“With the growing concern over climate change and our over-reliance on fossil fuels, hydrogen provides us with a useful alternative,” said Dr Weller.

“We have been able to use hydrogen to power fuel cells, which combine hydrogen and oxygen to form electricity and energy, for a number of years.

“But whenever the fuel is considered for cars, we hit the stumbling block of how to store hydrogen gas in everyday applications.

“The new material absorbs the hydrogen into its structure and literally bristles with molecules of the gas. At the flick of a switch, it rejects the hydrogen, allowing us to turn the supply of the gas on and off as we wish.

“The fact that we discovered the material by chance is a fantastic advertisement for the benefits of curiosity driven research.

“In principle, it should be possible to produce ready amounts of hydrogen using seawater and solar cells, giving the next generation of vehicles an inexhaustible supply of environmentally friendly fuel.

“In fact other research in Bath’s Department of Chemistry is at the forefront of the solar cell research, new battery technologies and new fuel cell technologies which could help unlock what many people are calling the hydrogen economy.”

Greener News Room


Relater:: Hydrogen as fuel

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11:28 AM

Friday, December 01, 2006

Burying greenhouse gas

The news that we're pumping twice as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere today as we were in the 1990s gives new urgency to the problem of stopping global warming. Now two teams of scientists in the U.S. report promising results for one unique solution: burying carbon dioxide underground.

Burying Our Problems

When we look out of our windows to see entire cities teeming with cars, and realize it's hard to drive through even the countryside without seeing smokestacks, it's easy to feel like the enormity of our greenhouse gas emissions problem is beyond our control. The world's population is not, after all, about to start subsistence farming and riding bicycles everywhere. Indeed, a report released earlier this month by the World Meteorological Organization showed that our carbon emissions are rising by 2.5% annually -- more than twice the 1% annual rise that was maintained in the 1990s (which wasn't too good to begin with).

But though the situation is dire, research teams throughout the United States have been testing what they believe could be one of the viable long-term solutions: geologic carbon sequestration -- or simply burying carbon dioxide, or CO2 gas underground.

Susan Hovorka a geologist at the University of Texas-Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology was the primary investigator on the first field test of this kind of carbon sequestration -- the Frio Brine Pilot Experiment. The Frio Site, located in Texas, is characterized by deep sandstone formations beneath denser shale rock. Back in October of 2004 her research team injected 1600 tons (or the equivalent of about 100 truckloads) of compressed CO2 about one mile underground. They've been carefully observing the site ever since, publishing their latest results in the July 2006 issue of the journal Geology.

"Our observations were astonishingly close to what we simulated with our model," says Hovorka, "When we stopped injection, the CO2 spread laterally for a very short period of time, a period of a few weeks, and then it stalled. And it's still there but it's not moving. I think it's permanently trapped."

Another research team led by geologist Brandon Nuttall at the Kentucky Geological Survey of the University of Kentucky has conducted more preliminary inquiries into the possibility of injecting carbon dioxide directly into shale rock rather than considering it as a seal. Nuttall's team analyzed core samples of Devonian Black Shale from 22 locations. The shale, he explains, is very widespread, underlying two-thirds of Kentucky with similar formations under large portions of the Appalachian and Midwest States. The results of his group's tests showed that indeed, shale formations should be an effective storage location for CO2.

"Instead of being a free gas, in this space between the particles of rock the CO2 is actually stored as a thin layer that is somewhat chemically bonded to the organic matter," says Nuttall.

Though there isn't as much room in the shale to store CO2 as there could be in other kinds of rock, there are added benefits to looking into shale, even besides its abundance. Since shale is an organic-rich material it often contains large quantities of natural gas, or methane, which can actually be recovered through CO2 injection.

"This is a cost-benefit type situation where by getting rid of the CO2 you can produce additional quantities of a more green fuel – natural gas," says Nuttall.

Economic factors will indeed play a big part in any decision to start implementing geologic carbon sequestration, since right now there aren't any political incentives for companies to voluntarily absorb the cost.

"The cheapest thing to do when you burn fossil fuel is to do what we're doing now – put the waste products up the smokestack. In order to capture carbon we need a policy decision," says Hovorka.

But even before issues of economics and policy there remain some fundamental scientific issues to clarify. Even though the injection of CO2 into the ground has already been used for many decades to enhance oil and natural gas recovery in mining, the main concerns now are to ensure that the carbon dioxide won't leak to the surface or cause problematic acidification of water (it forms a weak acid similar to carbonated soda when combined with water). However, both researchers agree that these risks are far less of a problem than continuing to dispose of carbon dioxide entirely into our atmosphere.

"I believe it's actually safe enough for application right now," says Hovorka. "We're just increasing our confidence at this point."

Since most proposed solutions for sequestering carbon emissions aren't forms of remediation - meaning they can't actually extract the CO2 that's already been released into the atmosphere, only capture CO2 from high density sources like power plants - the sooner policymakers and scientists find something they agree on, the sooner damage control can begin.

Hovorka's research was published in the July 2006 issue of Geology, and Nuttall's work has been presented at both national and international conferences.

by Eva Gladek

Greener News Room


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9:57 PM